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The world of haute couture has always been one of make-believe, fantasy, outrageousness and the fantabulous. If high fashion were ordinary, who would buy it?
But even give those wide parameters, in its never-ending struggle to be more, better and different, haute couture has exploited high tech graphic design to a level many find troubling. Photoshop and other digital programs, while trying to scale new heights of outrageousness are pushing the reputation of fashion photography to new depths of depravity. And these digital remakes seem positively unnecessary, coming as they do at a time of increased anorexia-bulimia, lowered self-esteem for young women and a host of societal self-worth and image problems plaguing our culture and young girls.
Today's women are trying to fight back, at least some of them. Just before Christmas, a gaggle of protesters who couldn't take it anymore marched outside the New York City flagship Ralph Lauren store "to demand that the company stop using images of models who've been Photoshopped into unreality for its advertisements. Protest organizers said they even envision a legislative solution."Two years ago two sisters died of anorexia, one while at a fashion show, leading fashion bosses in Madrid and Milan to set voluntary minimum body mass indices for models appearing in their shows and fashion shoots.
While the international fashion industry debates whether legislation is necessary to set minimum weight standards, nothing is stopping American graphic artists from Photoshoping models and Hollywood stars into starvation.
W Magazine recently sported this picture of actress Demi Moore on its cover. Demi Moore, even at age 47, needs no digital assistance. She's drop dead gorgeous without Photoshop. The poorly-executed Photoshop job on her already-perfect physique has been slammed by industry insiders as ridiculous.
"Look at the picture of the actress on the front page of the magazine below. While the star's looks are as stunning as ever the piece of flesh above her right leg where her dress has been engineered to reveal the sight of her hips, is so badly Photoshopped that even blinds would have sensed the discrepancy. The right hip of the model has been tried to look thin albeit very badly. The caption with the picture that Demi Moore sizzles even at the ripe age of 47, has become so inappropriate, because of the mistake."
I commend to you Jezebel.com's comical compilation of the worst Photoshop of horrors of the past decade. Some of the comparisons of real with fake are sadly entertaining -- sad because most of the models, singers and actresses digitally re-engineered needed nothing more than lights and makeup to look like goddesses. But please pay particular attention to the layout which shows the Ralph Lauren model Philippa Hamilton in real life and in Photoshop version.
Hamilton was later fired, apparently for being too "fat" at 5'10" tall and 120 pounds. Here she talks to NBC's Today show about her firing:
,In real life, Hamilton is exquisite. In her Photoshopped ad, she looks positively ridiculous. She went from being fashionably thin, to a digitized Auschwitz victim. Her generous bustline was over-sized by computer generation and looks like it's on a completely different body than her downsized waist. If this is what sells fashion, I must live in a parallel universe, because to me it looks sickly, not attractive.
What's perhaps most sad about this whole Photoshop phenomenon is that it comes at a time when America's suffering from its first-ever and worst-ever obesity epidemic. Anorexia and bulimia, unheard of when I was a teen, are more and more common afflictions for young women.
Something is running very much amok here and I'm not sure what it is. The more fashion leaders send the message to young girls that even the thinnest among them is too fat, the heavier they get in reality. If there weren't so many young Americans suffering, it might be funny because it's so odd and so off-based. Thin is in and always has been. But skinny to the point of near-death makes young girls appear weak and ghoulish, not fit and fashionable.
That said, the fact is many young Americans are suffering from obesity and anorexia. And if the fashion industry is to blame, and it is at least in part according to most experts, voluntary standards are not working.
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